The advert, which appeared in The Independent, included the phrase “if you do not wish to be mailed by us and other carefully selected charities, please tick the box”. The ASA agreed that the sentence falsely implied that Network for Animals was a registered charity rather than a non-profit charitable company.
Network for Animals said the phrase had been included to comply with Data Protection Act regulations on sharing donors’ details with other organisations. However, according to its adjudication report, the ASA “considered that the text ‘other carefully selected charities’, especially in the context of the ad and in particular the request for donations, was likely to lead readers to infer that NFA were also a registered charity".
The ASA also agreed that the NFA’s claim to be able to rehome abused dogs was misleading. The IWCT, which is a registered charity and also rescues dogs in the Philippines, claimed that the dogs rescued by the NFA were held in pounds and put down after a week because the organisation had no facilities to house the dogs.
The NFA admitted that most of the dogs it rescued had to be put down. The ASA’s report reads: “We noted the ad stated ‘we need your help to save them from this nightmare, tend their wounds and find them loving homes’ and we considered that readers could be led to believe that the NFA would be able to save and rehome the majority of the dogs they rescued.”
The watchdog also found that the claim was unsubstantiated because the NFA had failed to provide any evidence to demonstrate that it had rehomed at least some of the dogs it rescued.
Charles Wartenberg, chief executive of the IWCT, told Third Sector Online that the NFA had only one full-time staff member and a part-time vet in the Philippines. He said: “Network for Animals has a mailing list of 45,000 people. We have 6,000 on ours. We employ 14 people. We have a rescue centre currently housing 309 dogs, a full vet service, a staff house, vehicles and five rented acres of land. So what is the NFA doing with the money?”
The ASA ordered the NFA not to repeat the phrase “find them loving homes” in future adverts and accepted its suggestion that the wording of its mailing opt-out should be amended to “other non-profit groups and charities”.
The ASA did not uphold another complaint that the advert, which featured an image of a dog with its legs tied behind its back and a tin can muzzle over its nose, was unnecessarily offensive and distressing “in the context of an ad intended to raise awareness of animal cruelty that appeared in a publication predominantly read by adults”.
The NFA was unavailable for comment.